An outline of the 24 Conditions as taught in the Abhidhamma

by Nina van Gorkom | 2003 | 56,782 words

Conditionality of Life in the Buddhist Teachings An outline of the 24 Conditions as taught in the Abhidhamma...

Chapter 16 - Three Pairs Of Conditions

  • Association-Condition (sampayutta-paccaya) and Dissociation-Condition (vippayutta-paccaya)
  • Presence-Condition (atthi-paccaya) and Absence-Condition (natthi-paccaya)
  • Disappearance-Condition (vigata-paccaya) and Non-Disappearance Condition (avigata-paccaya)

There are six conditions which form three pairs and of each pair the two conditions have characteristics opposite to each other. These conditions are in part similar to previously mentioned conditions, but they each manifest a different aspect. The three pairs are the following:

association-condition, sampayutta-paccaya
dissociation-condition, vippayutta-paccaya
presence-condition, atthi-paccaya
absence-condition, natthi-paccaya
disappearance-condition, vigata-paccaya
non-disappearance-condition, avigata-paccaya.

With regard to association-condition, we read in the "Patthana" (II, Analytical Exposition of Conditions, 19):

The four immaterial aggregates (nama-kkhandhas) are mutually related to one another by association-condition.

Association-condition, sampayutta-paccaya, only pertains to nama, to citta and its accompanying cetasikas. We read in the Visuddhimagga (XVII, 94) about this condition:

Immaterial states (nama dhammas) that assist by the kind of association consisting in having the same physical basis (vatthu), the same object, the same arising, the same cessation, are association-conditions, according as it is said, "The four immaterial khandhas are a condition, as association-condition, for each other" (Patthana, I, 6).

Seeing, for example, arises together with the associated cetasikas at the same vatthu, the eye-base; seeing and the associated cetasikas experience visible object through the eye-door and then they fall away together. Citta and cetasikas condition one another by way of association-condition, but they each perform their own function. Seeing-consciousness cognizes visible object, it is the "chief" in knowing the object. Feeling experiences the "flavour" of the object, sanna marks or recognizes the object, and the other "universals"[1] perform their own functions. The eyesense which is the base, the physical place of origin (vatthu) for seeing, is also doorway (dvara), that is, the means through which citta and cetasikas experience the object. Only in the case of the five pairs of sense-cognitions (seeing, hearing, etc.) the same rupas, namely the five senses, are both doorway and base. All the other cittas, apart from the sense-cognitions, arise at the heart-base (hadaya-vatthu). Each citta and its accompanying cetasikas arise together at the same base, experience the same object and fall away together.

The citta and cetasikas which condition one another by way of association-condition, sampayutta-paccaya, also condition one another by way of conascence, sahajata. However, association-condition is not identical with conascence-condition. Conascence-condition also pertains to rupas which arise together[2] and to nama and rupa which arise together. Association-condition, in contrast, only pertains to namas, citta and cetasikas, which arise together and condition one another.

The teaching of association-condition reminds us that nama and rupa are completely different from each other. This condition manifests the close association between citta and cetasikas. Although in the planes where there are five khandhas, nama and rupa, citta and cetasikas arise together with rupa, they are not associated with rupa in the same way as they are with each other. Feeling, for example, is nama, it is closely associated with citta and the other cetasikas. When lobha-mula-citta accompanied by pleasant feeling enjoys a pleasant sound, the accompanying cetasikas share the same object, and they are all affected by the pleasant feeling, they are conditioned by it by way of association-condition. Citta and the accompanying cetasikas are of great diversity since each of them conditions the other nama-dhammas by way of association-condition. Kusala citta which is accompanied by sobhana cetasikas is quite different from akusala citta which is accompanied by akusala cetasikas. Some cetasikas can accompany cittas which are kusala, akusala, vipaka or kiriya, but they are of a different quality in each of these cases. Effort or energy (viriya), for example, which is kusala, such as energy for generosity or for awareness at this moment, is quite different from energy which is akusala, such as wrong effort accompanying attachment. Wrong effort arises, for example, when one tries very hard to concentrate on particular objects of awareness in order to attain a quick result of one's practice.

As regards dissociation-condition, vippayutta-paccaya, we read in the "Patthana" (II, Analytical Exposition of Conditions, 20):

The material states (rupas) are related to the immaterial states (namas) by dissociation-condition. The immaterial states are related to the material states by dissociation-condition.

This condition is altogether different from association-condition, since it pertains to nama which conditions rupa and to rupa which conditions nama. The nature of nama is completely different from the nature of rupa, they cannot condition one another by way of association. In the case of dissociation-condition, the conditioning factor can arise at the same time as the reality it conditions, it can arise before it or it can arise after it. Thus, dissociation-condition can be conascent, prenascent or postnascent. As regards conascent association-condition, the citta which produces rupa is related to that rupa by way of conascent dissociation-condition. When citta produces the rupa which is speech, that rupa arises together with the citta, it is conditioned by citta by way of conascence-condition and also by way of dissociation-condition.

In the case of prenascent dissociation-condition, the conditioning factors, which are the sense-bases and the heart-base, have to arise before the conditioned dhamma, the citta which is dependent on them; thus, they condition citta by way of prenascent dissociation-condition. As we have seen, the heart-base at the first moment of life arises at the same time as the patisandhi-citta[3], it is conditioned by citta by way of conascent dissociation-condition. During life, however, the heart-base arises before the citta which is dependent on it[4].

When we feel pain we can be reminded that the body-base (bodysense) is rupa which is dissociated from painful feeling which is nama; the body-base conditions the painful feeling by way of prenascent dissociation-condition. When nama and rupa are not distinguished from each other we cling to a "whole" of mind and body, we take them for "mine" or "self" and they seem to last. We keep on thinking of "my sensitive body" and "my painful feeling". The body-base which is the base for body-consciousness and the accompanying painful feeling, is only an extremely tiny rupa which arises and falls away. Painful feeling does not last either, it falls away immediately. Thus, when we think of our painful feeling it has gone already. When we learn through satipatthana to distinguish the characteristic of nama from the characteristic of rupa, we will be less inclined to think of a self who feels pain. We should learn to understand dissociation-condition not only in theory but also through the practice.

We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (V, Book VIII, Kindred Sayings about Anuruddha, Ch II, §10, Grievously Afflicted):

On a certain occasion the venerable Anuruddha was staying near Savatthi in Dark Wood, being sick and grievously afflicted.
Now a number of monks came to visit the venerable Anuruddha, and on coming to him... said this:
"Pray what is the venerable Anuruddha's life, in that the painful feelings that come upon him make no impression on his mind?"
"Friends, it is because I dwell with my mind well grounded in four arisings of mindfulness. That is why the painful feelings that come upon me make no impression on my mind. What are the four?
Herein, friends, I dwell in body contemplating body, being ardent, self-possessed and mindful. So with regard to feelings... mind... dhammas....
It is because I thus dwell, friends, that the painful feelings that come upon me make no impression on my mind."

In the case of dissociation-condition which is postnascent, the conditioning dhamma arises after the dhamma it conditions. We have seen under the section on postnascence-condition, pacchajata-paccaya (Ch 9), that citta consolidates the rupas of the body which have arisen previously to it and have not fallen away yet. Citta also conditions these rupas by way of postnascent dissociation-condition. The citta which conditions the rupas of the body in this way is altogether different from these rupas, it is "dissociated" from rupa.

With regard to presence-condition, atthi-paccaya, the conditioning dhamma consolidates the conditioned dhamma by its presence. The dhamma which conditions another dhamma in this way can arise at the same time as the conditioned dhamma, it can arise prior to it or after it.

Conascent presence-condition pertains to nama which conditions another nama, to nama which conditions rupa, and to rupa which conditions another rupa. The same conditioning dhammas and conditioned dhammas which are related by conascence-condition, sahajata-paccaya (Ch 5), are also related by conascent presence-condition. As we have seen, citta and cetasikas are mutually related by conascence-condition. The four great Elements are mutually related by conascence-condition. The rebirth-consciousness and the heart-base condition one another by conascence-condition. Moreover, the rebirth-consciousness is conascence-condition for the other rupas produced by kamma at that moment. Citta which produces rupa is conascence-condition for that rupa. The four great Elements are conascence-condition for the "derived rupas" (the rupas other than the four great Elements). The conascent presence-condition seems to be identical with conascence-condition. However, the teaching of conascent presence-condition reminds us of the fact that the reality which conditions another reality which has arisen at the same time is still present, that it has not fallen away yet.

As regards prenascent presence-condition, this pertains to the rupas which are bases, vatthus, and the rupas which are the sense objects and which condition the citta by way of object-condition. The rupas which are bases and objects condition citta after having arisen prior to it[5]. If we merely think of a prenascent condition we may not know whether it is still present when it conditions another reality. The teaching of prenascent presence-condition shows us that, although the conditioning reality has arisen previously, it is still present when it conditions another reality. Visible object conditions seeing by way of prenascent presence-condition. It has arisen before seeing, but when it is experienced by seeing it is still present. The other cittas of the eye-door process also experience visible object which is still present. Seeing arises at the eye-base and it is conditioned by this rupa by way of prenascent presence-condition. Learning about the base and the object which condition seeing helps us to understand the truth of anatta, non-self. There is no self who can cause eye-base and visible object to arise at the right moment, prior to seeing, and to condition seeing while they are still present.

Presence-condition can also be postnascent. Citta consolidates rupas of the body which have previously arisen but have not fallen away yet by way of postnascence-condition[6] and by way of postnascent presence-condition. The teaching of postnascent presence-condition shows us that citta and the rupas of the body it consolidates are still present to each other. The "Patthana" (Faultless Triplet, Investigation Chapter, §435, VII, d,e) mentions food and also physical life-faculty (rupa-jivitindriya) separately under presence-condition. We read:

Edible food is related to this body by presence-condition.
Physical life-faculty is related to kamma-produced rupa by presence-condition.

After edible food has been taken and it has pervaded the body, the nutritive essence it contains supports the internal nutritive essence present in the groups of rupa of the body, so that new groups of rupa can be produced[7]. When we consider the relation of nutrition to the body it helps us to see that we go on living because of conditions. The rupa which is nutritive essence present in each group of rupas of the body can produce new rupas, but it cannot do so without the support of the nutritive essence present in food. Nutritive essence is one of the four factors which can produce rupas of the body, the other being kamma, citta and temperature. Edible food conditions the rupas of the body by way of presence-condition, it supports and consolidates them.

As regards physical life faculty, rupa-jivitindriya, this is always present in the groups of rupa produced by kamma. It does not occur in the groups of rupa produced by citta, heat or nutrition. Eyesense, for example, is produced by kamma, and thus there must also be jivitindriya together with it in that group of rupas. The same is true for the other senses. We read about life faculty in the Visuddhimagga (XIV, 59):

The life faculty has the characteristic of maintaining conascent kinds of matter[8]. Its function is to make them occur. It is manifested in the establishing of their presence. And although it has the capacity consisting in the characteristic of maintaining, etc., yet it only maintains conascent kinds of matter at the moment of presence, as water does lotuses and so on. Though dhammas arise due to their own conditions, it maintains them, as a wet-nurse does a prince....

Past kamma is cause in the production of rupa, but it is not present in the same way as the other three factors which produce rupa: citta, temperature and nutrition. A deed, done in the past has fallen away, but the intention or volition which motivated that deed is accumulated from moment to moment. The force of past kamma is carried on and therefore kamma still has the power to produce rupa at present. Life faculty takes as a "wet-nurse" the place of kamma, the "mother", in maintaining the life of the kamma-produced rupas. Thus, life faculty conditions these rupas by way of presence-condition. Life faculty maintains the life of the rupas it arises together with in a group, it consolidates them, and then it falls away together with them. However, life faculty also plays its part in the successive arising of kamma-produced rupas throughout life. Life faculty performs its task of consolidating kamma-produced rupas from birth to death.

Life faculty is a condition for distinguishing kamma-produced rupa from other kinds of rupa. We cling to the body which is alive, we cling to eyesense and earsense and take them for self. They are only elements maintained by life faculty, a kind of rupa which is not self. They arise only because there are the appropriate conditions for their arising. When we lose eyesense or earsense there are no longer conditions for the arising of these kamma-produced rupas.

As regards absence-condition, natthi-paccaya, we read in the "Patthana" (Analytical Exposiiton, II, 23):

States, citta and cetasikas, which have just disappeared in contiguity, are related to present states, citta and cetasikas, by absence-condition.

This condition is similar to proximity-condition, anantara-paccaya, and contiguity-condition, samanantara-condition[9]. The citta which falls away conditions the arising of the next one by way of proximity-condition and contiguity-condition. However, the next citta can only arise when the preceding one has fallen away, when it is absent. Absence does not mean that the citta never was there; it has arisen and fallen away, and then it conditions the arising of the subsequent citta without any interval. There can only be one citta at a time which arises and then falls away, but there is a sucession of cittas from birth to death and then there is rebirth again. The cycle of birth and death continues until all defilements have been eradicated and one finally passes away.

As regards the third pair of conditions, this is disappearance-condition, vigata-paccaya, and non-disappearance-condition, avigata-paccaya. Disappearance-condition is identical with absence-condition. Non-disappearance-condition is identical with presence-condition. Identical conditions have been given different names, "as an embellishment of teaching to suit the needs of those who are teachable", the Visuddhimagga (XVII, 100) states.

Disappearance-condition is the same as absence-condition, but the word disappearance helps us to understand that the absence of the conditioning dhamma does not mean that it never was. The preceding citta, which is the conditioning dhamma, has just disappeared and thus it can condition the arising of the subsequent citta, the conditioned dhamma, without any interval. If we do not learn about the different conditions under different aspects we may have misunderstandings about the moments of their arising and falling away.

Non-disappearance-condition is the same as presence-condition. A dhamma which has not yet disappeared can, while it is still present, condition other dhammas. However, the conditioning dhamma cannot stay on, it has to disappear. Just as in the case of presence-condition, the conditioning dhamma can be prenascent, conascent or postnascent to the dhamma it conditions by way of non-disappearance-condition.

Footnotes and references:


The seven cetasikas which arise with each citta, namely, contact, feeling, perception (sanna), volition, concentration, life-faculty and attention.


See chapter 5.


Both the heart-base and the patisandhi-citta are produced by kamma at the same time. See Ch 5.


The rupas which are the five sense objects have to arise prior to the citta which is dependent on them, but they are not included in prenascent dissociation-condition. They are external objects and it is obvious that these rupas are not associated (sampayutta) with the citta which experiences them. See U Narada, Guide to Conditional Relations, Ch II, 20 c, Base-Prenascence-Dissociation.


Rupa cannot at its arising moment condition citta since it is then too weak. It can only condition citta after it has arisen, thus, at the moments of its presence. Therefore, it has to arise prior to the citta it conditions. Rupa lasts as long as seventeen moments of citta. See Appendix 1 for the process of cittas which experience a sense object.


See Ch 9.


Nutritive essence is one of the eight inseparable rupas present in each group of rupas.


Life faculty arises together with other rupas in a group and it maintains these rupas.


See Ch 4.

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